Skip to comments.Covering the conflict...
Posted on 08/30/2006 8:22:35 PM PDT by pickrell
I have been assigned by the syndicate-of-scribes to cover this deployment, as an 'embed'. I dutifully showed up to the pier one hour before departure, as directed on my ticket.
The detritus from innumerable packed lunches littered the dock area. Many of the small, discarded ale cartons sported a picture, requesting, "Have you seen this woman?" At a look from me, the nearest Viking explained, "That's Helen of Traagen. They say hers is a face that shipped a thousand lunches. Some posh bint married to a king or such." He sniffed disdainfully, "If'n I were married to a missing Valkyrie like her, I'd try a long odyssey meself..." He guffawed hugely for the benefit of his captive audience, "For preference in the opposite direction! Searching for the real kidnapper, of course..." Chuckles of agreement rippled from the passengers in line.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please empty your pockets and place the contents in a tray. Remove your sandals and put them in a separate tray. Place both trays upon the conveyor belt, and step through the stone archway."
Ahead of me, spears, bows, arrows, daggers and all manner of weaponry clattered onto the belt, divested from several Norsemen who apparently didn't own footwear. An inspector, seated in a chair slung above the belt, gnawed on a chicken leg, and examined the hardware, after it passed through the small curtain. He nodded in approval, and the two warriors stepped to the end of the belt to reclaim their armaments.
The next one was stopped, however. "Can't take liquids aboard, sir." The offender shrugged and held the wineskin to his lips. Glug, glug,glug. "You only had to say," he belched thoughtfully at the now-empty container.
I did as instructed, also, and piled everything into the two trays. There was a sudden silence broken only by the black-toothed attendant, as he delighted in drawing everyone's attention to the holes in my socks. "Hard times in the journalism racket, eh? Might try being fair and balanced, eh? Ya bleedin' toads...!" he cackled. My face reddened as I hurried up to the stone arch.
The inspector tsked disapprovingly after my trays slid past the curtain, and deftly kicked several of my possessions off of the belt, and into a box marked 'Contraband, deliver to bake sale!'. "You know better than that, Odin. Can't take nail clippers, single use razors or sharp napkins aboard!"
I shrugged in shame and walked through the arch, to retrieve my axe and dagger. Immediately, however, a small rat, inside a cage with a parrot and a candle, began lighting and blowing out the candle repeatedly, as the parrot tiredly...well...parroted, "Peep, peep, peep peep....bloody peep....OK?"
As the alarm sounded, a hedge witch immediately stepped from the shadows and frowned, "I'm afraid you'll have to be hand inspected, sir." She produced a small magic wand which was promptly waved over every embarrassing part of my body, until she flinched near my metal belt buckle. I lifted my tunic and smiled weakly, "Sorry. Didn't think..."
"Nothing threatening there, chum," she snorted contemptuously, and waved me on. I slunk forward to join the boarding line.
"Aisle seat?" a personable axeman offered me.
At the front of the craft, the ship captain reluctantly brought the crude megaphone to his mouth and explained, "Ladies and gentlemen, this is your captain. We are experiencing a slight delay. The ship ahead of us is having mechanical difficulties...."
At that, a frustrated bowman leaped to his feet, and shouted to the obstructing ship ahead, "Pull up your damned anchor, ya knuckleheads!" Hoots resounded over the water as we all watched her crewmen scurrying to the back of the ship.
"Sorry," a voice plaintively apologized across the water. "My goof..."
The bowman reclaimed his seat and muttered, "I hate reservists. Don't know their adze from a hole in the boat."
As we waited, the captain of the ship was hailed by a small, neat barbarian who had just arrived at the end of the dock. A change dispensor was slung round his neck. "That'll be 14 Kroner for the launching, and of course 2 Kroner for sails tax- since you have 2 sails."
"But we probably won't use the second one!"
"I don't make the rules, sparky. I'm just an uncivil servant. As they say, 'There's no such thing as a free launch'..."
Grudgingly the chief barbarian peeled off several bills and flung them at the tax collector. "Fascist!" he cursed quietly.
Behind me a wizened old man sat hunched over a small tray. That he had been there quite a while was apparently betrayed by the large spider web covering part of the tray. I watched as the man beside him snorted in impatience.
"Well? What do you see as our fate, Olaf?"
The old man sighed, "Can't tell yet. The web's been slow all morning."
"Try hitting the 'Refresh'."
"I already have several times," the shaman complained. He gathered up the small bones, pebbles, feathers, and a mummified small rodent into a bag he held, and closing his eyes while shaking the pouch, once again scattered the talismans across the board. He fretted distastefully at several bones which appeared marginally newer than the rest and shrugged, "Ever since this last upgrade, it's been running slow."
The odor of the rodent's carcass was apparent, even where I was sitting, so I ventured, "Could be you need a new mouse. They have tailless ones now, you know." He paid no attention as he examined the puzzled spider and the scattered bits for mystic clues to the future.
We were interrupted by the navigator passing by, "You'll have to put that away, now, Olaf. Not allowed to have it switched on, during the sail."
Finally the tardy longboat ahead of us began its journey. Our ship turned onto the channel and the engineer began rev-ving up the oarsman as he checked his instruments."Rowrowrowrow!" he commanded. The loud splashing intensified.
When the engineer was satisfied, he nodded, and the captain lifted his foot off of the brake rope. I watched it slowly worming it's way overboard as we eased forwards.
Gliding out of the fjord, I couldn't help wondering what kind of reception we would receive in the islands of the Anglos. Surely it couldn't be as stomach turning as the disastrous trial invasion way down south last year, in the land of the snail eaters. They had all tried to sell us pornographic pictures of their little sisters, and belted us when we refused. Disgusted, we retreated in some disorder. The land of the Jacques strap will certainly never have to surrender to invaders...
The Viking seated beside me must have read my mind. "The Angles and the Saxons at least fight back as we rape and plunder them. It would take all of the fun out of it if they someday simply wondered why we hated them, and offered to negotiate. Can't bear seein' grown men on their knees." He hefted his axe thoughtfully, "Until, at least, I've cut their legs off."
"Hopefully the world will never come to that," I opined. The Englishmen had built homes, farms and communities. The time was now ripe for us to drive them into the sea, and reclaim what had once been a pristine unholy land. Ideas like theirs could mean the end of cultures like ours. In a world no longer safe for pillaging and nomadism, they would contaminate everywhere with heresies about raising crops, and children... instead of razing villages. Picture an awful existence filled with policemen and militia. Wouldn't even be possible for a hard working barbarian to make minimum plunder, doin' jobs that others refused to do.
It's hours later, and we've reached the distant shore. My job of course, is to put the best face on things, if they begin to fight back effectively, or even, perish the thought, to drive us back. My stories will be carried from one town cryer to another, as word of our exploits carry along the coast.
"Good afternoon. I'm Eric, reporting from a non-descript British hamlet, for VNN- the Viking News Network. Today the much vaunted English defense forces were shaken as our triumphant raiders demolished a considerable part of the island. The Saxons will surely begin an in-depth investigation of the failures of the Anglo army and the Administration, now that so many of our barbarians escaped. The plan to annihilate us has failed miserably! The world must surely marvel, tremble and cheer at our latest victory..."
Looks interesting/ amusing. Bump 4 l8er.